Lethal Weapon 2

Directed By: Richard Donner

Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, and Patsy Kensit

The first Lethal Weapon film set such a high standard for the modern action thriller that Lethal Weapon 2 had quite an unenviable task.  Following up a future classic is always a tall order.  As history tells us though, Richard Donner, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, and others rose to the occasion and delivered another great action thriller that has stood the test of time.  They even took a little time out to address the social injustice of apartheid in South Africa.

The film kicks off with Riggs (Gibson) and Murtaugh (Glover) in hot pursuit of some bad guys.  After some dumb driving by other LAPD cops on the scene, the crooks get away.  They crash in the process and leave a trunk full of Krugerrands behind for the cops.  With plenty of gold coins in the hands of the police, Riggs and Murtaugh are now well aware of the fact that they're dealing with South Africans.

With all that gold now gone, somebody has to be pissed off.  It just happens to be Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland), the Minister of Affairs for the South African Consulate.  He sends Pieter Vorstedt (Derrick O'Connor) and some of his security to send a message to Murtaugh and the police to back off.  They break into Murtaugh's home and threaten the sergeant and his wife Trish (Darlene Love).  Naturally, Murtaugh is ready to take down these criminals. 

In the aftermath of the attack however, Captain Murphy (Steve Kahan) reassigns Riggs and Murtaugh to protect a witness named Leo Getz (Joe Pesci).  When they find out that Leo is connected to some South African drug dealers, they take the opportunity to get back on the case to take down these criminals.  The one problem is that Arjen and his associates are diplomats and therefore have immunity from the law.

Throughout Lethal Weapon 2, there's a raw intensity that underscores all the thrills.  We can thank screenwriter Shane Black and star Mel Gibson for this.  Black wrote such an edgy screenplay that the film is far more intense than the average action thriller to this day.  How often do you see war declared on the cops on the big screen?  That's ballsy writing that I have to commend.

Martin Riggs may have been a suicidal basket case in the first Lethal Weapon, but Gibson brings a different, far more dangerous insanity to the table in this follow-up.  With Gibson bringing out an entirely different menace in Riggs in this sequel, we are treated to a murderous nut who's willing to dislocate his own shoulder to kill (or to win an office bet).  Riggs is a sick maniac in this film, and it's great to see him run wild on the big screen.  I'm definitely rooting for him every step of the way in this one.

Lethal Weapon 2 is undoubtedly funnier than the original.  While the bromance between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover fuels a decent amount of the jokes, I have to single out a different duo on the comedic front.  Glover's Murtaugh and Joe Pesci's Leo Getz bring the biggest laughs of the film.  Whether serving as a distraction in the South African consulate chanting "Free South Africa!" or bickering with one another about damage inflicted on Murtaugh's station wagon, these two are absolutely hilarious.

Aside from the endless thrills and sharp comedy of the movie, Lethal Weapon 2 is a film with a heart.  Having the South African diplomat Arjen Rudd as the central villain of the film is a blatant setup by Shane Black and Richard Donner to incorporate an anti-apartheid theme.  While they may use it to infuse humor into the film at times, it is still a method by which they bring this social injustice to light for the masses.  They ultimately address this issue quite deftly without compromising the entertainment value of the film.  Filmmakers like Donner and Black who can use big budget blockbusters to start a conversation about social issues deserve the utmost respect.

Lethal Weapon 2 is a rare sequel that outdoes the original on so many levels.  Donner, Gibson, and Glover really top themselves with this sleek, edgy action thriller.  It's a film that brings an undeniable intensity, a fun sense of humor, and a surprising social conscience.  For this, I have to give the film a sober rating.  It just doesn't get any better than this!